North American Mustang in RAF Service

Having originally been designed to fulfil a British requirement for a new fighter, it is not surprising to find the Mustang serving in large numbers with the RAF and Commonwealth air forces.

The Mustang’s service career falls into two almost entire separate parts, divided by the engines that powered the aircraft. The Allison powered aircraft (Mustang I, IA and II) was used for army co-operation, tactical reconnaissance and low level attack. In contrast the Merlin powered aircraft (Mustang III and IVs) were used by Fighter Command.

The Mustang I entered RAF service with No. 26 Squadron in January 1942. At the time the squadron was flying a mix of Westland Lysanders and Curtiss Tomahawks, so the modern high performance Mustang I was very welcome. By the start of 1943 sixteen army co-operation squadrons were using the Mustang I and IA, flying a mix of tactical reconnaissance and low level attack missions over northern France. During 1942 the Mustang I became the first Allied single seat fighter to enter German air space since 1940.

As production of the Allison powered aircraft ended, the majority of RAF squadrons were forced to move onto other aircraft. Only one, No. 309, flew both Allison and Merlin powered Mustangs, as the two aircraft were not generally interchangeable, and could not easily perform each others duties. Only one RAF squadron, No. 26, was still using the Mustang I at the end of the war, having been re-equipped with the aircraft in October 1944 to carry out low level reconnaissance over the V-2 rocket sites, where their combination of low level speed and long range was still hard to equal.

Mustang III and IV were used as straightforward fighter aircraft. They entered service with No. 122 Wing (No. 19, 65 and 122 squadrons), in February 1944, after having their original greenhouse cockpit canopies replaced with Malcolm hoods, as used in the Spitfire. At first the wing concentrated on bomber escort, often accompanying the bombers of the American 8th Air Force on raids over Germany while the USAAF built up its own Mustang units.

Once the USAAF was able to provide its own escort fighters, the RAF Mustangs concentrated on escort missions and fighter sweeps over the coast of occupied Europe. In June 1944 they joined the vast numbers of allied aircraft providing fighter cover for the D-Day landings in case the Luftwaffe attempted to disrupt the landings. In the event the Luftwaffe did not dare attack the vast air armada hovering over Normandy.

In the period immediately after D-Day the majority of Mustang fighter squadrons moved to the continent. In July half of them were pulled back to southern England to deal with the V-1 flying bombs, but they were soon back in France.

In a final ironic twist, RAF Bomber Command resumed daylight bombing operations over Germany from late September 1944. The RAF’s Mustangs found themselves operating as long range escort fighters, escorting the RAF’s Lancaster bombers to Germany in the same skies as their American allies were performing the same duties with their P-51Ds.

Squadron

I

II

III

IV

2

Y

Y

 

 

4

Y

 

 

 

16

Y

 

 

 

19

 

 

Y

Y

26

Y

 

 

 

63

Y

 

 

 

64

 

 

Y

Y

65

 

 

Y

Y

93

 

 

Y

Y

112

 

 

Y

Y

118

 

 

Y

Y

122

 

 

Y

Y

126

 

 

Y

Y

129

 

 

Y

 

154

 

 

 

Y

165

 

 

Y

 

168

Y

 

 

 

169

Y

 

 

 

170

Y

 

 

 

171

Y

 

 

 

213

 

 

Y

Y

225

Y

Y

 

 

231

Y

 

 

 

234

 

 

Y

Y

239

Y

 

 

 

Squadron

I

II

III

IV

241

Y

 

 

 

249

 

 

Y

Y

250

 

 

Y

Y

260

 

 

Y

Y

268

Y

Y

 

 

285

Y

 

 

 

303

 

 

 

Y

306

 

 

Y

 

309

Y

 

Y

 

315

 

 

Y

 

316

 

 

Y

 

400

Y

 

 

 

414

Y

 

 

 

430

Y

 

 

 

441

 

 

Y

 

442

 

 

 

Y

450

 

 

Y

 

516

Y

 

 

 

541

 

 

Y

 

611

 

 

 

Y

613

Y

 

 

 

3 RAAF

 

 

Y

 

1 SAAF

 

 

Y

Y

2 SAAF

 

 

 

Y

5 SAAF

 

 

Y

Y


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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (7 June 2007), North American Mustang in RAF Service, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_Mustang_RAF.html

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